Nature’s Sleep Aids

Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? One of the easiest ways to combat insomnia and sleeplessness is to utilize the benefits of natural essential oils. Whether you apply the oils topically, add them to a warm bath, diffuse them, or spritz* them onto your pillowcase or eyemask, certain essential oils provide relief for insomnia and aid in falling and staying asleep.

Lavender

lavender By now, many people know that lavender helps to soothe and relax tired minds and muscles. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders.” It is also beneficial as a bug repellent and antibiotic, for all you avid campers.

 Ylang Ylang

imagesThis essential oil is one of my favorites for relaxation, probably because of its fragrant floral notes. It reduces stress and relaxes the nerves. I like to mix a couple drops of this with lavender or chamomile for added benefits.

 Roman Chamomile

chamomile-401490_640Roman Chamomile has a sweet, fruity aroma. It has a calming effect, and is great to diffuse for a soothing and peaceful environment, i.e., one that promotes and supports sleep.

 Bergamot

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Bergamot is a good choice for someone who loves citrus scents, but it is much more calming than the more stimulating oils of grapefruit or tangerine. It is great for “clearing your head” in preparation for a peaceful night’s rest.

Vetiver

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This essential oil is extracted from the root of the vetiver plant. It has a warm, earthy scent, and promotes sleep while also relieving stress and muscle tension.

* I recommend adding a couple drops of essential oil to a water-based spritzer so the oil does not stain your bed linens.

Surprise! Sleep Deprivation Affects Emotional Intelligence

It is 8:00 am, pre-coffee (if that’s your thing), and you’re getting ready to walk out the door after a night of staying up with your sick spouse, child, or roommate. You’re starting to feel super-human, juggling all your pre-work morning responsibilities with a heavy head and groggy eyes, when your spouse/child/roommate walks up to you and asks an innocent question: “I’m hungry. What are we having for breakfast?” You look at their cheerful, face and take instant offense. You think, “What do you mean, what’s for breakfast? Can’t you see I’m simultaneously feeding the dog, prepping the beans for tonight’s slow-cooker dinner, and reading Junior’s school newsletter?”

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According to a new U.C. Berkeley study published in the Journal of Neuroscience earlier this week, there is a strong link between a lack of quality sleep and decreased ability to distinguish between positive and negative emotional facial expressions in others. Researchers viewed brain scans and monitored the heart rates of 18 adult participants while they randomly viewed 70 images of faces with random expressions: positive, neutral, and negative emotions. Each individual viewed the facial images twice, once when they were fully rested and once after they had been awake for 24 consecutive hours. The study noted a neural link between the quality and amount of sleep a person gets and his or her ability to correctly process others’ facial expressions. The results of the study inferred that there is “a role for REM sleep in affective brain recalibration” and “the next-day success of emotional discrimination…”

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All the more reason to get a good night’s sleep!

 

For more information on the study, you can refer to the following articles:

http://news.berkeley.edu/2015/07/14/brain-facialexpressions/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/15/sleep-brain-emotions_n_7801726.html

 

Sleep and Exercise: A Reciprocal Relationship

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Many people feel that they get a better night’s sleep after a day of physical activity. It makes sense: The more active you are during the day, the easier it may be for you to relax and fall asleep at night. Interestingly enough, sleep may have as much of an effect on exercise as exercise has on sleep. Also, people who regularly sleep well may experience these effects very differently than people who have chronic sleep problems.

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According to a study published in the Mental Health and Physical Activity journal, a nationally representative group of participants reported a 65% improvement in sleep quality and daytime alertness when they exercised for at least 150 minutes per week. Aerobic activities seem to be best for sleep, as they increase the levels of oxygen that reach your bloodstream. The exact reasons behind exercise helping with sleep are unknown, but there are some theories from the National Sleep Foundation. One is that your body becomes heated during a workout, and the post-workout drop in temperature may promote sleep. Another reason could be that physical activity decreases anxiety, arousal, and symptoms of depression, which may contribute toward sleep problems. By keeping active during the day, it may be easier to deal with stress, and with less stress comes a deeper and more restful sleep.

Sleep also maximizes the benefits derived from exercise. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, the body performs vital activities during sleep, such as providing an opportunity to recover from being used during the day. Restorative functions almost exclusively take place while asleep, such as muscle growth, protein synthesis, and tissue repair. Alternately, when humans are deprived of sleep it can cause health problems by modifying levels of hormones involved in metabolism, appetite, and stress response. If your body has not had a chance to recover and restore itself, you will not be as fit for activities the following day.

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Most studies that look at the correlation between exercise and sleep do not use subjects with existing sleep issues. For people who do not have chronic sleep problems, the relationship between exercise and sleep is not as complicated. For people with insomnia, the relationship between sleep and exercise can become a vicious cycle, the lack of one hindering the other and vise versa. Insomnia can come in many different forms: difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, waking during the night, non-restorative sleep, and daytime sleepiness.

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A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine takes a closer look at a previous study on physical exertion and sleep. It concentrated on sedentary older women with insomnia. They were randomly directed to either remain inactive or begin doing cardiovascular exercises for 30 minutes, 3-4 times per week for 16 weeks. After the 16 weeks, the active group was sleeping much more soundly than they had been at the start of the study. They were sleeping for 45 minutes to an hour longer each night, were waking up less frequently, and were more energized during the day.

What was most interesting though, was the fact that the active participants did not experience immediate results. They did not notice an improvement in sleep the night following a day of physical exertion. In fact, they instead noticed diminished corporeal performance after a night of poor sleep. People with insomnia tend to experience extreme arousal of their stress system. Random single bursts of exercise will not help overcome this arousal, and may even aggravate it. In order to help with insomnia, an exercise routine needs to be implemented and maintained. Eventually the regular activity will start to silence a person’s stress response, and sleep will come more readily.

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The process is very gradual, and does not offer immediate gratification. This makes it harder to implement into daily life, because it takes regular exercise several months to show significant and consistent changes in sleep behavior for those with insomnia. And when you are tired, it is hard to motivate yourself to be active, and your workout suffers. Once sleep and activeness become a normal routine, each will benefit the other.

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As a whole, sleep and exercise are mutually beneficial, and both help maintain overall health. For people who do not experience regular problems with sleep, these benefits can be reaped almost immediately after implementing regular workouts and sleep routines. For those with insomnia or other sleep issues, it may be a bit harder to find the initial energy and endurance to begin this lifestyle change. Either way, the conclusion of these studies is that regular sleep and exercise should be incorporated into everyone’s lives, and as a pair, they can improve your health!

‘Tis the Season… for Itching and Sneezing!

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Warmer weather is on its way, and with it comes a whole host of pollens and other allergens! While many people may consider spring allergies to be “par for the course,” an article I read recently suggests that those allergies may be something to lose sleep over — literally! According to a survey done by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 59 percent of nasal-allergy suffers say that their sleep is interrupted by allergies and 48 percent say that their symptoms interrupt their partner’s sleep, too! However, even with all this sleeplessness, only 35 percent of those surveyed were making a concerted effort to find a remedy!

Perhaps one of the reasons that so few people are taking the initiative to get relief is that that they are not sure what to do…as a fellow allergy sufferer, I have often found myself standing in a grocery-store aisle, staring blankly at a wall full of allergy medicine options! Here at OMI, we are pretty big advocates of getting a good night’s sleep, so I thought this would be a good time to pull up a previously posted blog to get some tips for tackling those pesky allergy symptoms. Click here to view the blog post, or read on for more great ideas!

1) Avoid Over-the-Counter Decongestants

While these may seem like the most convenient choice for clearing out your nasal passages, they have been known to cause insomnia. Furthermore, overuse can lead to resistance, which means that your symptoms will only come back with a vengeance! We prefer natural remedies, whenever possible, but if you DO take allergy medicine, stick to antihistamines without added decongestants (e.g., Claritin, Allegra, or Zyrtec).

2) Avoid Exercising in the Early AM

The prime time for pollen production is 5AM to 10AM… which means that your early-morning workout may leave you feeling groggy, instead of energized! Try scheduling your exercise routine for evening hours, at least during peak allergy season. Also, remember to close your windows before bed to avoid being bombarded by pollen in the morning (unless, of course, you are an early riser)!

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3) Drink Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) has been praised for its digestive benefits for centuries! Some people also tout it as a natural allergy remedy, citing its ability to reduce mucous production and cleanse the lymphatic system. Although the scientific basis for this is unclear, it is certain that ACV has digestive benefits — like promoting good bacteria in the gut — and since there is a definite link between allergies and the gastrointestinal system, it is worth giving it a try!

I prefer to enjoy ACV as part of a delicious salad dressing, but some people prefer to dilute it in a glass of water or juice and simply drink it as a supplement. However you choose to ingest it, the important part is making sure you pick the right kind of ACV. The unfiltered kind (with the cloudy stuff at the bottom) offers the greatest benefit to your body. Be sure to shake it up before you pour!

4) Eat Onions

Foods like red onions, red apples, and even red wine contain a bioflavonoid known as quercetin. This naturally-occurring compound is known for its properties as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antihistamine! Click here for a more extensive list of quercetin sources, or check your local grocery store for quercetin capsules.

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5) Try Acupuncture

While it may seem a little creepy to some, acupuncture is ideal in the sense that it does not have side effects. It works by calming the overstimulation of the immune system, which makes it useful for people who are experiencing more than one type of sensitivity (e.g., seasonal allergies plus mold allergies). Click here to read more about the benefits of acupuncture.

6) Boost Your Immune System

Keep in mind that the coughing, sneezing, and itchiness are all products of your immune system’s over-response to histamines…so supporting a healthy immune system can help reduce the symptoms of allergies. All of the things that you would do for your body while fighting a cold — eating well, getting enough sleep, etc. — can help mitigate your body’s response to allergens and lessen your symptoms.

7) Grow a Beard

This is not an option for everyone, but facial hair has been shown to measurably reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies, at least according to this article. The theory is that facial hair acts as a natural filter for pollens, dust, and other allergy-causing particles in the air. That being the case, those lucky enough to have a beard or mustache should be sure to keep them clean during allergy season!

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In the end, just about any remedy that reduces allergy symptoms and improves sleep is a good one (especially if is natural)! So don’t be afraid to try something new, even if it sounds a little odd at first!

Why Do Teens Nowadays Get Less Sleep Than Previous Generations?

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Teens of this generation are generally getting less sleep than those of previous generations. What could be the reasoning behind this trend?

According to a study performed at Uni Research Health in Norway, the culprit could be the hours a day teens spend using electronic devices. The study was based on data gathered from 10,000 16- to 19-year-old boys and girls, who were asked about their daily quantity of screen time as well as their sleeping habits.

The findings were that those who used an electronic device for over four hours a day had a 49% higher risk of taking longer than an hour to fall asleep. Those who exceeded two hours of screen viewing per day were more likely to toss and turn before falling into a deep sleep. Teens who used multiple devices throughout the day were more likely to get less than five hours of sleep per night.

The reasoning behind this might be linked to the screen light, which may impact sleep hormone production. It could also be related to the social communication aspect, such as anticipating a response from a friend.

An easy way to fix this problem would be to treat electronic devices like any other stimulant (such as caffeine) and limit their use before bedtime and just in general. If the devices are not used while in bed, the body and mind won’t associate the bedroom with wakefulness, and could thus obtain better sleep.

For more information about how electronic devices impact teen sleep, read this article by Bill Briggs from NBC News: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/zombieland-tech-wrecking-sleep-scores-teens-study-n298901

Sleep Deprivation and the Scary Effect It Can Have on Your Health

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The importance of a good night’s sleep is often ignored as impending deadlines approach, or the countless tasks of the day require you to stay up later and later. But what is the damage that can be caused by not getting enough sleep? A sleep study was preformed last year, and the results were astonishing. The study showed that just sleeping less than six hours a night for a week caused changes to more than 700 genes! Here are some of the scary effects that not getting enough sleep can cause:

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After one night of inadequate sleep you are…

More likely to eat more and be hungrier. Studies have shown that short-term sleep deprivation can result in a preference for high-calorie, high-carb foods and a greater likelihood of choosing unhealthy foods options.

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You can be less focused and have memory problems. Being exhausted zaps your focus and renders you forgetful. According to Harvard University, sleep is thought to be involved in the process of memory consolidation, which means that not getting enough sleep can make it more difficult to learn and retain new things.

More likely to have an accident. Getting less than six hours of sleep can triple your risk of drowsy driving-related accidents, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

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More likely to catch a cold. Proper rest is a major factor in a healthy immune system. A study preformed by Carnegie Mellon University found that sleeping fewer than seven hours a night tripled the risk of coming down with a cold.

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You can’t look your best. Beauty sleep is a very real thing! Researchers have found that there are links between sleep deprivation and skin aging.

After an extended period of sleep deprivation you will experience an increased risk of stroke, obesity, some types of cancers, and heart disease, as well as other serious medical issues.

To see the full article by the Huffington Post, Horrifying Picture of What Sleep Loss Will Do To You click HERE.

Make getting 7-8 hours a sleep of night your New Year’s resolution for next year and sleep your way to better health!